Live Nation’s Disney Dreams

Live Nation’s recent third-quarter financial reports included a spotlight on per-fan spending at its venues, which enjoyed a 10 percent rise from the same period a year ago. Using Walt Disney Parks & Resorts as a benchmark, company officials are aiming even higher.  

Photo: Disneyland Resort, Paul Auyeung/AP
“Mickey and the Magical Map,” at Fantasyland Theatre in Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif.

While theme parks and concerts might seem an apples-to-oranges comparison, Live Nation is experimenting with ways to get that spending up to at least a sports arena-level $30 per head from the current $22. It’s going to take more than beer and popcorn. Live Nation’s goal, according to the Wall Street Journal, is to get music fans to spend as much at their 40-odd sheds and festivals as they might at a Disney park – $40 per visit.

The per-head ancillary revenue is obviously important as the slim profit margins for ticket sales alone haven’t changed. So Live Nation is trying out new ideas including smartphone apps and marketing services, craft beers and high-end food choices, VIP lounges and “ambassadors” who guide fans to the fastest-moving concessions lines, the paper says. It’s paying off. Recent quarterly financial filings reflect record revenues and the live business is booming.

“This high-margin spend has been a key driver of our growing concerts profitability in 2016,” Live Nation President/CEO Michael Rapino said in a recent earnings call.

The Top 100 Global Tours grossed $4.7 billion last year, up 16 percent from 2014. But the vast majority of ticket revenue flows to performers, with promoters still keeping only a tiny fraction.

To boost onsite sales, LN hired Tom See, a veteran of theme parks including years with Disney and later VP of sales at Universal Studios Hollywood.

It could be a challenge – consumers out for a full day at Disneyland do not necessarily behave the same as concertgoers, even at a day-long festival visit.

“Time is our Achilles’ heel,” See told the Wall Street Journal. “But if we can service you faster, you’ll probably spend more.”